COLUMBIA, MO. • Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel is cautious about whether or not defensive end Aldon Smith will play on Saturday against Oklahoma.
Smith is a bit more certain.
"I'm playing," Smith said Monday. "I'm playing." And, as if to leave no doubt: "I'm playing."
Smith broke his fibula on the last possession of the San Diego State game on Sept. 18, and was expected to miss just the Miami (Ohio) game, but after Mizzou's bye week, he also missed the Colorado and Texas A&M games. Smith wasn't on the team's updated depth chart on Monday, and Pinkel said that as soon as Smith was practicing full speed, "he'll be moved up to the starting position. We'll know (Tuesday), we'll know Wednesday, we'll know Thursday. I don't want to project. I think it's a possibility he'll play."
Pinkel said Smith practiced with the team on Thursday before the Texas A&M game, but the sophomore wasn't 100 percent, so he didn't make the trip to College Station. "He said he wanted to help the team," Pinkel said, "but I said if you can't go full speed, you can't help the team. We can't let you go out there because you'll get hurt. It was smart that we didn't play him."
Smith said he thought he was close last week — "I thought I was going to go, but the doctor said differently," he said — and is over the top this week.
"I'm fine," he said. "Tomorrow will be the first day where I'll be in a situation where I'd get hit by somebody, but I'm confident. If I wasn't confident, I wouldn't be out there.
"I don't want to be a step behind. I want to be out there like I was."
Though Mizzou's defense has done quite well without Smith, getting the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder from Raytown, Mo., back is a big boost for the unit. He had 15 tackles in his three games, four for a loss, and three sacks.
While Mizzou is getting Smith back, it has lost linebacker Luke Lambert, who suffered a knee strain in the third quarter against A&M but finished the game. Pinkel said it was hoped Lambert would miss just two games, "though that could change." Lambert suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter of the Illinois game — in which he had eight tackles — and missed the next three games.
Linebacker Will Ebner has been playing with a broken bone in his foot Pinkel referred to as a dancer's fracture. He said the injury that has been with Ebner for several weeks essentially was a bone chip in his foot that can't be damaged any further but is painful.
ESPN will hit town
ESPN will set up shop at Francis Quadrangle on campus on Saturday for its College GameDay show. It's the first time the program will originate from the Mizzou campus, though Mizzou has been part of the show four times in conjunction with road games. (The Tigers are 1-3 in those games, with the one win coming over Kansas in 2007.)
The show airs from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., the first hour on ESPNU, the last two on ESPN. It's a big enough deal for Mizzou that the Homecoming parade has been pushed back until after 11 a.m., so fans can mug on camera and still take part in the Homecoming festivities.
On playing No. 1
If you accept the premise that being ranked No. 1 in the BCS now is every bit as significant as the polls traditionally have been, the Tigers will be taking on the top-ranked team in the nation for the 10th time and seeking their first win.
Although MU was ranked No. 1 by The Associated Press for a week in 1960, the Tigers first played a No. 1 team in 1971, losing to Nebraska 36-0. Mizzou's last top-ranked foe was Oklahoma in 2003, a 34-13 MU loss.
Mizzou's game with Nebraska on Oct. 30 will start at 2:30 and be televised by ESPN or KDNL (Ch. 30). ... Receiver T.J. Moe is fifth in the NCAA in receptions per game at 8.33 and tight end Michael Egnew is sixth at 8.17. Blaine Gabbert is eighth in passing, completing an average of 25.17 per game. ... Mizzou is sixth in the nation in net punting, averaging 41.04 yards per kick. ... After Saturday's game, Mizzou has just one more home game, against Kansas State on Nov. 13.
Vahe Gregorian of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.